Cardiac arrest explained: Former CEC TN Seshan dies at 86

Cardiac arrest is an emergency condition in which the heart of a person who hasn’t been diagnosed with any heart disease, stops functioning.

Myupchar November 11, 2019 14:47:18 IST
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Cardiac arrest explained: Former CEC TN Seshan dies at 86
  • Cardiac arrest is an emergency condition in which the heart of a person who hasn't been diagnosed with any heart disease, stops functioning

  • A cardiac arrest can occur at any age. The elderly are only slightly more susceptible

  • No, a heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest

T.N. Seshan, the chief election commissioner of India from 1990-96, died of a cardiac arrest at his home in Chennai on Sunday night. He was 86.

Known for reforming the country’s electoral system — including issuing voter IDs to everyone eligible — Seshan was reportedly battling many age-related ailments.

Condolences started pouring in for Seshan — a 1955 Tamil Nadu cadre officer of the Indian Administrative Services — late last night, with politicians as well as public figures from all walks of life paying their respects.

Cardiac arrest is an emergency condition in which the heart of a person who hasn’t been diagnosed with any heart disease, stops functioning.

It can be fatal if the person is not revived immediately.

Cardiac arrest explained Former CEC TN Seshan dies at 86

Former chief election commissioner TN Seshan. Reuters

A cardiac arrest can occur at any age. The elderly are only slightly more susceptible.

What causes the heart to stop?

Cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning.

Most cardiac arrests occur due to ventricular fibrillation (v-fib). During v-fib, the ventricles (the heart’s lower chambers) start beating and vibrating very rapidly and irregularly. When this happens, the heart pumps little or no blood to the body. V-fib is fatal if not treated within a few minutes.

Another reason for cardiac arrest could be an electrical malfunction in the heart, leading to arrhythmia - the irregular beating of the heart. The heart muscles do not respond to these weak electrical signals and stop pumping blood through the heart to the body.

Due to this, seconds later, the person may lose consciousness and their pulse may vanish altogether. Death can occur within minutes if the victim does not receive any treatment. 

Is cardiac arrest similar to a heart attack?

No, a heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest.

Heart attacks are caused by a blockage in one or more arteries of the heart that hinders blood flow to the heart. A heart attack may lead to death of the heart muscle due to the loss of blood supply.

The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

The symptoms of a heart attack start slowly and may persist for hours, days or weeks before an actual heart attack, whereas in the case of a cardiac arrest, there are no previous symptoms.

Unlike with sudden cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack.

Are they linked to each other?

Sudden cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack, or during the recovery. 

After a heart attack, the blood flow of the heart is already compromised so it increases the risk of complete shutting down of the heart. 

Can a patient be saved after cardiac arrest?

The faster you act, the better the outcome is likely to be. There are three stages of outcomes of a cardiac arrest patient.

  • First stage: Within 4 to 5 minutes from the moment of cardiac arrest. If the patient is given cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR within this short time frame, they may have complete body recovery without any damage.
  • Second stage: Between 4-5 minutes and 10 minutes from the moment of cardiac arrest. When the body is deprived of oxygen for this long, tissues all over the body start dying. Performing CPR on a patient during this window may restore oxygen supply to tissues.
  • Third stage: 10 minutes after the cardiac arrest. In this stage, various metabolic systems start to shut down due to tissue death. After 10 minutes of apoxia, or complete lack of oxygen, the blood starts gathering elements like cytokines (which are present in the immune system). When this blood starts flowing through the vessels again, it causes further damage.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please watch this video on Why cardiac arrest can cause death within minutes.

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